Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Fungi in farm and woodland restoration

Fungi workshops #1: Fungi in farm and woodland restoration 

by Alison Pouliot

Old trees are vital keystones of
woodlands and farmlands

Since its inception in Victoria in 1985, Landcare participants have planted millions of native plants as part of the restoration of farmlands, woodlands, forests and grasslands. During this time Landcare has grown into a nation-wide initiative and indeed spread further to another 20 countries.

While Landcare efforts have been remarkably successful in restoring soils, vegetation and waterways, could these efforts be even more effective if fungi were included as part of landscape restoration efforts?

The Mid-Loddon Landcare Network and Conservation Management Network strive to achieve the integrated management of native woodlands with productive farmland in addressing environmental issues. The groups also work to protect threatened local species, the Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) being one such example of a species on the brink of local extinction that is being actively assisted. The event of the first bird recorded on camera in one of the protected areas last week was a welcome sign of conservation success.

However, these groups are also inspiring examples of dedicated local enthusiasts who recognise the importance of fungi in maintaining diverse and resilient ecosystems. In recent years the groups have run various sessions to inform participants of the role of fungi in soils. The groups' dynamic and tireless coordinator, Judy Crocker, has a profound appreciation of the significance of fungi in agroecosytems and encourages farmers to restore the fungal and microbial ecologies of their soils, to improve both farm production and ecosystem integrity. Judy recognises the importance of fungi in linking ecosystems, particularly the importance of leaf litter for both fungi and curlews, as well as the role of fungi in stabilising soils following fire.

Xerula australis group
Cortinarius sublargus following fire

Also of great concern to the group is the decline of old trees in rural Victoria. This decline is thought to be due to a combination of factors including drought stress and land management practices that have altered salinity, nutrient composition, soil structure, water infiltration etc. However, are there ways that fungi could be more actively incorporated into efforts to maintain and protect old trees?

The Mid Loddon Landcare Network and CMN will be running several sessions this autumn to explore the role of fungi in central Victorian environments.  Further information about the MLCMN's activities can be found here.

The fungi of Victoria's northern-central environments have been little documented. Any records of Fungimap target species from these regions would make a great contribution to the knowledge and conservation of Australia's fungi and ecosystems.

Fungi are vital to the resilience of Victoria's woodlands

Text and images by Alison Pouliot, All Rights Reserved.

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